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Ask Dr. Mike: Chocolate & Inflammation PLUS Should You Cycle Your Curcumin?

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans.

Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

Your recent guest advised not eating chocolate because he thought the casing in the chocolate was inflammatory to the joints. The problem with this is plants don't make casing. If there's casing in chocolate, it's because the manufacturer used milk to process it. Most dark chocolates, such as those at 85 percent cocoa, aren't made with milk products and therefore have no casing in it.

Yes, so this is correct. Cocoa hasn't gone through the processing and therefore doesn't have casing. However, what the guest was talking about was opening up a Snickers, Hershey's, or other milk chocolate candy wrapper and eating it. Those examples have been processed with milk and can cause inflammation in your body.

What's the point of taking the same probiotic everyday?

Since bacteria divides very quickly, the gut is no longer the perfect growth medium for healthy gut bacteria. When you take a protbitic pill it's (in theory) supposed to release the healthy bacteria and help balance your gut out. It might be wise to cycle your probiotics throughout the week.

Should you cycle curcumin? It appears that this supplement works by hormesis.

Hormesis is the theory that a little bit of a stressor goes a long way and it stimulates protective processes in your body. Dr. Mike believes in this theory and thinks that by cycling through nutrients like curcumin during the week is fine.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: June 10, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

RadioMD. It's time to ask Dr. Mike. Do you have a question about your health? Dr. Mike can answer your questions. Just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call now 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

DR MIKE: I have three questions now from Bart Taylor. He is a long time listener of my show and he has sent me other questions before. He always sends me challenging, thoughtful questions. Smart guy. Let me start first with really a reply or response to a past show that I had where one of my guests was talking about chronic pain. I want to say it was Dr. Twogood.

He has a book out: Chronic Pain Gone in 90 Days and he links a lot of chronic pain to inflammation and, of course, inflammation to inflammatory substances that we are putting into our system. He talked about things like MSG, toxins, etc. One of the things he talked about is chocolate.

He made the connection between chocolate, when it's processed. Obviously, we use milk to make milk chocolate and there's a protein in milk called casein that is big time pro-inflammatory. So, in his own practice, when he removes casein – milk products like chocolate--out of his patient's diet – they feel better. He's had some pretty dramatic examples of that. That's his experience.

So, Bart says, "Your recent guest who advised not eating chocolate because he thought the casein in the chocolate was inflammatory to the joints, the problem with this is that the plants don't make casein" – meaning the cocoa bean. Plants don't make casein. "If there is casein in chocolate it's because the manufacturer used milk to process it. Most dark chocolates, such as 85% cocoa, is not made with milk products and as such has no casein in it."

Correct, but when you just look at chocolate, cocoa bean, there's no casein. It's the processing of it to make the chocolate bar. I'm going to defend Dr. Twogood here. That's what he is talking about. He's not talking about 85% cocoa. He's talking about opening up a wrapper, a chocolate candy bar--whether it's milk chocolate or dark chocolate, doesn't matter--and eating it.

That has been processed with milk and that has the casein in it. I'm pretty sure that's what he was talking about. That was my take on it. When he was talking about that, I didn't challenge him on that because I just assumed that he was talking about Snickers. Just don't eat that chocolate Hershey Kisses. Should I stop branding other companies? Bart, I'm pretty sure that's what he meant. The real issue with Dr. Twogood is milk products and, in particular, one protein in there called casein.

Next question from Bart. This is a really good one.
"What is the point of taking the same probiotic every day? Bacteria seem to multiply so fast that I doubt that if someone swallows a probiotic one day that there's none of the probiotic bacteria in the colon the next day after consumption. I could maybe see taking probiotics once a week. What do you think about cycling probiotics throughout the week?"

Great question, Bart. This is a question that we've actually looked into at Life Extension. How often do we really need to take probiotics? It is true that bacteria divide very quickly. They go through multiple generations in one day.

So, that's true but that's in a perfect environment. That's in an environment in a petri dish. That's in a wound. You get an anaerobic type of bacteria that just festers in the wound and that wound is just a perfect environment for that kind of growth. The problem is the gut.

Although, in a perfect world, the gut should be a perfect environment for that kind of growth and sustained growth of healthy bacteria, but given how we live today and given the environment that we live in, that's not the case. The average American gastrointestinal system is no longer that perfect growth medium for those healthy gut bacteria.

It turns out that we have better mediums for the bad guys. For the good guys, it's not really that perfect growth medium. When you take a probiotic pill, in theory, it should release all those live bacteria; they should seed it; they should divide; they should be happy. Everybody is doing great and maybe you could cycle your probiotic pill.

That's not what the case is in the average person. We take the probiotic pill and, by the way, Bart, no matter how well that probiotic pill is manufactured you aren't going to release all of them. There is no way that probiotic pill is 100% live bacteria even when you protect them and provide the prebiotic.

That's just not the case. Right there, you are losing some just by taking the probiotic. Then it gets out there and it seeds the gut like it should but then we are eating bad foods and we are talking antibiotics and we are eating food with antibiotic in it; we have nitrates and we have pesticides and we have plastics. You just add all that in – our own stress, emotional stress, and physical stress – you add all that in and how many of that good bacteria really take hold and really start to divide? That is the question. We don't believe it's that many.

We do believe in today's world, based on how the average American is eating and living, we need to take a probiotic every day. Bart, I think you are the type of guy that is much more keen into health. You are a health enthusiast. You ask very intelligent questions. You probably even have a background, I would say, in medicine of some sort or you've done a lot of great reading or research on your own, which is awesome and I commend that and I love questions from you, Bart. So, someone like you who is much more health conscious and who is eating right and who is decreasing stress, who is not eating the gunky food, yes. Go ahead and try it. Save you some money.

Take it once every three days. I guess that would be fine. Maybe if you get a stomach issue for whatever reason then you take it every day for a while and then you go back to a cycle. I have no problem with that assuming that you are healthier than the average American.

The average person I talk to is not like you, Bart. They are eating the standard American diet, which is sad. They are stressed out, overworked, not sleeping well, drinking diet Cokes – I would tell them to take it every day. I love that question, Bart.

Bart then says, "This is another cycling question. Should you cycle resveratrol and curcumin? It appears that these two supplements work by hormesis. As such, I understand that you shouldn't do the same hormesis every day without a break.

What would be a good cycling time? Maybe five days on and two days off? Are there other supplements that would work off hormesis?"

So, I guess the first thing we have to make sure is that the listeners understand hormesis. Hormesis is the theory that a little bit of a stressor goes a long way and a little bit of radiation actually from just living on earth is helpful for you. It stimulates protective processes in the body. Calorie restriction is a perfect example of hormesis. Restricting calories is kind of a little bit of a stressor that turns on defense mechanisms – the anti-aging genes. I do believe in hormesis. I think there is some legitimate science behind the theory of hormesis – that a little bit of a stressor is good for you.

Bart, the immune system is totally based on hormesis. You get a little bug in there, you react to it, and you develop some antibodies that can crossreact to the bigger bug that might hit you. The immune system is based on hormesis. Bart is correct.

There are nutrients that have both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory properties like curcumin. So, you get some anti-inflammatory effect but in some cell lines it actually stimulates it a little bit that actually activates a defense mechanism. I don't think the hormesis mechanism is quite that strong in curcumin and resveratrol.

So, I don't think you need to cycle it but you want to sure. How about during the week you take them and on the weekend you take a break? That's perfectly fine.

You save some money, too. We haven't really worked out exactly what would be a good cycling regimen for a product or a nutrient or some therapy that is based on hormesis. That's a little bit down the line, Bart, but great, great question.

This is Healthy Talk on Radio M.D. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.